Pletcher juveniles no one-hit wonders
By any measure, Todd Pletcher’s 2012 Saratoga meeting was a huge success, providing the five-time Eclipse Award winner with his ninth training title and third in a row. Of his 36 wins from 149 Saratoga starts, 23 were with 2-year-olds, including the closing day Grade 2 Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes with Shanghai Bobby.
This isn’t the first time the 45-year-old second-generation horseman has excelled with juveniles. Last year, Pletcher won 14 Saratoga 2-year-old races with 41 horses making 54 starts (when his overall record was very similar to 2012: 38 wins from 149 starts). Saratoga is the most important race meeting of the year for a trainer to showcase promising young horses, and success on the track begets more success in keeping the pipeline of promising young talent flowing from Thoroughbred owners and breeders into Pletcher’s barn.
Curiosity got the best of me, though, and I wondered how those 41 individual 2-year-old runners from the 2011 Saratoga meeting have performed since then. I went into the exercise expecting to find a high attrition rate, thinking that perhaps these horses were pushed too hard, too fast.
Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Only three of the 41 juveniles of 2011 have failed to run again since the conclusion of last year’s Saratoga meeting. Eight of the 41 have gone on to win stakes races, and, when combined with the two Saratoga 2-year-old stakes winners of 2011, brought the number of stakes winners to 10 from 41 horses (24%). That is a damn good number.
Three of those subsequent stakes winners – Disposablepleasure, El Padrino, Dancing Solo – won American Graded Stakes. Add the two Saratoga Graded Stakes winners from 2011 (Georgie’s Angel, Overdriven) and that’s five of 41 (12%).
As a group, since the end of the 2011 Saratoga meeting, the 38 runners that raced again have an aggregate record of 41 wins from 224 starts (18%). That number would be a whole lot better were it not for one horse, Woods Hole, who finished eighth in his lone Saratoga start, then was claimed from Pletcher next time out at Delaware Park. He’s run 26 times since then and on Sunday scored his first career win at Fort Erie.
Not every horse is a winner. That’s not the way this game works, even at the top level. Pletcher’s success may start with 2-year-olds, but that’s not where it ends.